I’ve just been watching the Beach Volleyball at the Olympics. You can tell I’m getting old, because I was actually watching it for the sporting contest rather than the the women in swimwear. It was the Women’s Final between Australia and the USA and it really messed with my head.
Athletes may talk about the pressure of competition, but they have, in most countries, an extensive support system and they have been preparing for the Olympics for four (or five) years. The UK has Lottery Funding, the USA has a college system which pumps out an endless supply of athletes and the Russian Olympic Committee has the benefit of a state-supported doping system (remember that even if they are clean now, most of them are still using the advantages gained from years of doping before they were caught). But what does the average sports viewer get?
I was completely unprepared for the Olympics, following so close on the heels of the football. I hadn’t had time to get up to speed with all the stories, hadn’t had time to plan my snacking regime, and was completely unprepared mentally. When the USA and Australia stepped out on to the court, I was, to say the least, conflicted.
For much of my life the Olympics was just a continuation of the Cold War by another means, as the Eastern Bloc athletes, who all seemed to be in the army, went about the business of winning gold medals in a joyless and efficient manner. At this time, the USA stood firm against Communism on the sports field. So, I still have a part of my heart that cheers for the USA.
However, there are limits, and one of those is that I am incapable of supporting the USA against members of the Commonwealth. Although we all have shared history, the USA decided to opt out in 1776 and the Australians stuck with us. It was with mixed emotions that I found myself shouting for Australia. The problem was that we are very close in medals on the medal table, and one more gold would be enough for Australia to overtake us (at time of writing).
I had much the same problem with the women’s hockey bronze medal match this morning – I wanted the Indians to win their first ever Olympic hockey medal (their men having already taken their first medal in 41 years) but I also wanted the England women to win. It was a great match, where the lead swapped several times and it was a shame that anyone had to lose.
Which gets us back to the Australia versus USA problem. Fate stepped in and the USA won. This was disappointing. Was it as disappointing as Australia overtaking us in the medal table? I’ll let you answer that one for yourselves.
Just for interest (I’m not going to step into any contentious areas if I can help it) look at this. It seems that while the German gymnasts are actively working against the trend to sexualise women’s sporting outfits, the beach volleyball teams already have a choice of attire and generally opt for the swimwear.